The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) on Tuesday held a public hearing in Nakhon Ratchasima for the second phase of the Bangkok-Nong Khai high-speed railway project.

The 356km route goes from Nong Khai, the province bordering Laos, to Nakhon Ratchasima (aka Korat).

Nakhon Ratchasima provincial governor Wichien Chantharanothai said the hearing was to provide information to the local community so they could comment and help the developers improve the project.

At Tuesday’s hearing, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the second phase gave people extra information about the thorny issue of railway crossings amid concerns over drivers’ safety.

The hearing was told that 185km of the route would be built at ground level and 171km would be elevated.

The developer is proposing to build five types of railway crossings along the whole route to reduce traffic accidents and make life as easy as possible for motorists.

These crossings will comprise 120 railway bridges over major highways, 25 vehicle bridges over major roads, 23 U-turn bridges for small roads with low traffic volume and 84 underpasses in the countryside.

The developer is planning to build five stations along this stage of the route: Bua Yai in Nakhon Ratchasima, Ban Phai in Maha Sarakham and three others in Khon Kaen, Udon Thani and Nong Khai.

There will also be a cargo and container yard in Na Tha near Nong Khai.

The SRT expects to wrap up the public hearings and other consultative procedures next year, begin construction in 2022 and have the second phase completed by 2029, at a total cost of 250 billion baht.

The train will be capable of speeds up to 250kph and when the whole route is completed it will take three hours to travel the estimated 600km from Bangkok to Nong Khai.

The second phase will follow the first Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima line — the 253-km rail route now under construction. The whole route when completed will link Bangkok with Nong Khai next to Laos, which will eventually make the route a crucial piece of the jigsaw in China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Southeast Asia.

Some 800 million baht will be spent on a study and environmental impact assessment of the Nakhon Ratchasima-Nong Khai line.